My newspaper is late this morning and I honestly hope I can make it through the day. My body is trying to figure out how to cope without its brain being awake.
Most regular readers know I'm not a morning person. I'm not mean or grouchy just very slow to wake up - a slug. Years ago I stumbled on the perfect formula to arrive at a face-the-world state. It takes an hour and it involves the paper.
My alarm goes off just after 7:00 and it is, on purpose, across the room. I wouldn't get up until noon if I could reach a snooze alarm. I head for the kitchen, put on the tea kettle, and feed Ollie the Wondercat, who by now is borderline hysterical waiting for his breakfast. He's so wrapped around my legs thinking I'll go someplace other than his dish that I can barely walk. His morning routine involves wet food so many days my arthritic hands struggle with the little cans. I guess fingers wake up at the same pace as the brain. . . s-l-o-w-l-y.
As soon as Ollie has his whiskers in the dish, I head for the front door and the newspaper box hanging just outside, and soon I'm in my nest, teacup and newspaper in hand, and all is right with the world. Except this morning. Oh, no . . . the box is empty. How do I get through the morning?
It usually takes me 45 minutes to an hour to read our paper. I begin by checking the obituary names on the front page. Every morning I experience a little internal smile at the old joke that any day your name isn't there is going to be a good one. If I do recognize a name I turn immediately to page two, otherwise, I continue with all the front page stories. When the articles are about school board or city council I have to pay attention . . . and the morning waking up progresses, sometimes with a slow burn. Planning and zoning issues, drilling, development, the newspaper is my source for what is going on that will affect my pocketbook or the quality of life in our little burg. Yup, sometimes I'm a little fired up by the time I turn the page.
Then it's on to the obits which I thoroughly read. It continually amazes me how many people I know who are related to other people I know and I didn't know it! When I first moved here 33 years ago, I quickly realized that reading the obits helped me learn about many of the families in town, the businesses where people worked, the organizations they were involved in. The obits painted the picture of the community. Naturally I'm often reading about strangers but the chronicles of their lives are interesting. . . the woman who was one of fifteen children or the WWII vet who returned to his family farm to lead a stable life, dedicated to his family and his community. I feel warmly philosophical after finishing their stories, knowing that each day gets me closer . . . to page two.
When I've finished On the Record, I'm definitely more awake either from wondering what we're coming to, or the sheer stupidity of what some people do with their lives. I find myself considering how big a role the economy is playing in some of the small crimes being reported shoplifting, gas theft, car break-ins . . . or is it the same people doing the same old thing. Hard to decide.
I don't know what the pull is but I have to read Ann Landers. I think a lot of us grew up reading Abby and Anne's columns and somewhere along the line their common sense advice crept into our value systems. I knew from all those miserable or angry letters that I'd never choose an abusive husband or be mean to my mother-in-law.
On the same page, Dr. Donahue's column is a must. It's surprising what you can learn from this unruffled, wise old medico, and maybe I've learned more about my bladder than I ever wanted to know. I do wish he'd replace his 30-year-old picture and stop charging $4.75 for a letter of advice in this era of the internet. For seniors without computers there are always friends who do have them. Time to update, Doc.
My morning isn't complete without the bridge column, always on the lookout for ways to improve my pathetic game. Then I get slug advice from the garden column, entertainment info from the Spotlite Section, keep up with my friends kids in the Halls of Ivy and Community News and always read the marriage license applications. Yesterday I didn't know anyone on the birthday list although the day before I knew five people and wondered what all those Leos had in common.
I miss the extension agent now that she's retired and I hope she's being replaced. We all need botulism prevention and I, for one, need support in my battle against mealy bugs and lime stains.
I barely scan the sports page, mostly for friends, but I always read the business page at the back gagging at the slip and slide of the Dow Jones. I even read the legal notices well, doesn't everybody? I check out the classifieds not for any particular reason, but as the lottery guy says, "Hey . . . you never know."
So by the time I finish the funny page I'm wide awake and raring to go on the cryptogram and Sudoku puzzles. I like the challenge and work against the clock just to see if I can. A five minute cryptogram is good, a 27 minute Sudoku is not. But the brain is finally awake and firing on all cells well, the ones that are left, anyway. And almost an hour is gone. On Saturdays it's fifteen minutes more.
The paper finally arrived two hours late this morning, just before I left. Honestly, it happens so seldom it's hard to be upset. . . especially when I think of the morning wonder that it is most days. Who else delivers their product six days a week before 6 a.m.? When I think that it goes to press at 11:00, in Jamestown, and is in my paper box usually before 4 am, it is a bona fide miracle.
Speaking of miracles, I somehow got through my day, but I can tell you that the cryptogram takes a lot longer at dinnertime . . . when the brain is winding down. I fell asleep just before Final Jeopardy.
Marcy O'Brien can be reached at Moby.firstname.lastname@example.org.